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14 December 2007 @ 09:52 am
Supernatural 3x08: Brother Can You Spare Some Squee?  
Sometimes I feel like I'm living on a slightly different fandom planet, given everyone else's reaction to this ep last night.


So, I DID like this episode overall, and there were a lot of really great moments in it. But damn if it didn't put me in a complete funk for the boys, and that doesn't seem to match the way most of you felt about it.

The hardest part, honestly? It's that this episode confirmed all of my negative feelings about John, and if I were just an isolated viewer who was never exposed to what the rest of fandom thought, I'd be okay with that. It's knowing that there are those of you that think John's a good father that just makes this hard. Because my god, I really, really don't.

Being a good man and a good father are not the same thing, by a long shot. LOVING your children does not make you a good father— it's hard to be a good one if you don't, but that's only the first step, and they have to know unequivocally that they're loved. Sam doesn't know that, and you can sure see why.

Now, there are parents who spoil their kids by bending over backwards for them, and that's not good. But ultimately, a child's life to some degree needs to be about him or her. And Sam and Dean's lives were rarely about them. They were about what John wanted or needed to do, at the expense of his children's emotional needs, and that happened over and over again.

Do you know what kind of message that sends to a child? It's, You don't matter and You're not important enough, and what they hear in addition to that is You never will be.

It doesn't change anything knowing that an adult might look at some of the situations Sam and Dean faced growing up and see them differently than the boys did as kids. It's not the message that was sent, it's the message you heard.

Dean seems to have had the biggest hero-worship pair of blinders on that any child ever could have, and it hurt to listen to him talk up John's behavior to Sam. But if Dean gave up on John, what would he have left? Sam had Dean— and will always have Dean, to love and protect him and provide that stable force. Dean had nothing but John and himself, and 'yourself' isn't squat when you're four and eight and ten.

Leaving your children to fend for themselves for days on end— never knowing when you'll be back— is a form of neglect. Doing it over Christmas when the holiday/sentiment matters to your kids is just being an ass It's cruel, and it's pretty much inexcusable. You can't save all of the world all of the time, or even most of it. And if you're letting your kids raise themselves, you need to re-evaluate.

*sigh* Sorry for the ranting. I really have strong feelings on this issue, both as a parent and as a child. My dad wasn't perfect, and he made several choices during his life that were entirely about him and cost a little bit of his children's well-being. But compared to John? Hardly a blip on the radar. When I look at John, the only things I can say in his favor as a parent are that he loved his kids. I can't say that he tried to keep them safe— because though he gave them some tools to protect themselves, he also left them alone at points where kids of ANY family could burn down the apartment, let alone be susceptible to dangers from other human beings. And by hunting as he did, he increased their exposure to danger.

Canon doesn't support that John knew way-back-when that something was threatening Sam— and if he had, I doubt he'd have let Sam out of his sight. Ever. Canon shows instead that he dragged them all around the country, left them alone at times when they were much too young to be alone, and put more responsibility on Dean to parent both kids than you should ever ask unless you're absolutely desperate. The man wasn't desperate— he chose to be desperate, or to be obsessed. Not the same thing as actual need.

Okay. I've probably alienated about 50% of my f-list by now, and I'm sorry. Feel free to continue loving John and thinking he's the bestest Daddy ever. I just really, really can't. Good man? Yes. Good father? Absolutely not.

More and more, I think those boys would have been better off being raised by Bobby. His love for them is obvious and certain— in a way their father's wasn't (to them). That matters. Plus, he had an actual clue about the things that matter to kids.

~*~

As to the rest of the episode (OMG, other stuff happened in this episode?), there was a lot of The Good:
+ Soulless Santa Village— wow. Angry Santa, dispirited/muddy everything, commercialization out the whazoo. That entire idea was a total win.
+ The Anti-Santa lore and visuals. Fantastic!
+ Deadly Ward And June Cleaver, who have "What's that word, dear?" "Assimilated." Just yes. They remind me of BtVS' wholesomely homicidal mayor \o/
+ Suspense and horror— a little too much almost for me, but damn if it wasn't really, vividly there.
+ The boys get it very, very wrong and are forced to carol their way out of a bad moment. I love that the show addresses the idea of them getting it wrong sometimes, because it's got to happen.
+ Kid!Sammy here looks like he could be Sammy (including the nose). As opposed to Kid!Dean, who really doesn't look like Dean.
+ Kid!Dean tried to rescue a crappy Christmas for Sammy, even though he stole the presents and they totally sucked. But it's the thought that counts.
+ Thank you Sammy for coming through on Dean's last Christmas, awkward as that scene was.
+ Emo!Porn in spades, though it personally left me more depressed than uplifted.
+ Present-day motel room of decorating horror. Or should that be on the "bad" list?

Also a little of The Bad:
- Seriously, gods are supposed to be immortal and invulnerable. That's why they're gods.
- Not that big on Kid!Dean in this episode. Freckles do not a Dean make. A father who can't be home for Christmas isn't going to shell out for plastic surgery to pin back a pair of ears like that later, either.
- Fingernail scene. Glagh, but that was excruciating. Why, Kripke, why?

And The Depressing:
:{ John.
:{ That filthy, broken-down motel room in Nebraska.
:{ Grandpa-Santa gets it, while his grandson is watching. It's that last part that really bothers me.
:{ Child-molester porn-watching Bad!Santa. But not funny, like Billy Bob Thornton's Bad!Santa.
:{ Blood-suit instead of Santa Suit. Effective, really worked with the story, but damned depressing.
:{ Kid!Dean lets Sammy cry himself to sleep, even though he tries to make up for it later.
:{ OMG Sam, you'd skip Dean's last Christmas? Broke my heart. Glad you changed your mind.
:{ Watching B&W football on Xmas with your brother from way over there. :(
:{ Teetering on my seat for crumbs of love and affection between the boys, when I want so much more for them. They're all the other has! I know this is Kripke's mantra, but at the same time it hurts me to watch.

Now with Fanon-Killers!:
! Sammy hates Christmas.
! Dean loves it?!? Or something?
! SAM gave Dean the amulet, way back when? Which was from Bobby? There goes my fic.


Okay. That was a lot of blathering. Now, the question is whether I'll be able to write any of my SPN Xmas fic assignments after watching that episode. Man, but that put me in a funk. :\


 
 
 
I'm Mulder, She's Scully: Chicagorunedgirl on December 15th, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
I loved this episode, but would be the first to agree that it was *painful* to watch. It's impossible for me, as a parent, to look at John as a parent and feel anything but heartbroken for the boys, especially Dean. Yet John, as a character, is amazingly rendered -- even when he's not even *in* the episode, his character is omnipresent and incredibly powerful. He's shaped Dean and Sam, by his absence as much -- or more than -- his presence. And as painful as that is to see, it makes the awkward, fumbling tenderness the boys struggle for with each other all the more compelling and touching. They can't say 'I love you,' but they can hear it from each other anyway, we know they can by the looks on their faces.

As for the wee!chesters, the problem with trying to convey those kind of complicated emotions is that you have to be an actor of Jensen or Jared calibre, and there are precious few little kids who are up to that challenge. Actually, precious few adult actors are up to that challenge! So the nuanced performances we're used to from J2 don't happen, and we feel the lack of them, I think.

Dean is the quintessential parentified child, but he's also way more broken from the rest of the traumas in his life on top of that dynamic than most. But in a sense that just makes the character even more compelling, because his strength and determination are all the more amazing.

Lovely thinky post. Thanks :)
Lynsey
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 15th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
I loved this episode, but would be the first to agree that it was *painful* to watch.

I think that's probably what I was having trouble coming to terms with. It was a really good episode, it was damn hard to watch in places for a number of reasons (namely absent-John and broken-boys), and very vivid overall.

It's impossible for me, as a parent, to look at John as a parent and feel anything but heartbroken for the boys, especially Dean.
Yes. I did a poll ages ago that I didn't ever collate, but one of my hidden theories (supported ever so slightly by the poll) is that people who resonate more for Dean (not "like" him more, but are more moved by him) tend to have a lower opinion of John as a father. The damage of John's choices is so clear in what it did to Dean. Sam has his problems, but he's much better off in comparison. *sigh*

Yet John, as a character, is amazingly rendered -- even when he's not even *in* the episode, his character is omnipresent and incredibly powerful. He's shaped Dean and Sam, by his absence as much -- or more than -- his presence.
I really, really love how you phrased this. It's true, and yet it isn't obvious, and it would not have occurred to me on my own!

the problem with trying to convey those kind of complicated emotions is that you have to be an actor of Jensen or Jared calibre
I think of Jared honestly as a "pretty good" actor and Jensen as a "very good" actor (more of a character actor, really), but in either case you're right-- child actors usually don't have this level of ability. Every once in awhile, but not often!

But in a sense that just makes the character even more compelling, because his strength and determination are all the more amazing.
What really does it for me is the layers under the asshole facade. Those layers run deep, and there's a lot of damage and recovery that helped build them. And it's like we're still finding new ones (moreso in S2, though), which always works for me! Rich characters fascinate me, even when they're not always "likeable". For instance, woobie!Dean gets me every time. Assy!Dean I just want to kick in the nads. And it's all the same person...

Lovely thinky post. Thanks :)
Thanks for doing your part to add interesting discussion to it! You definitely have me thinking about the side-effect of John now. :)
getting the chocolate in the peanut butter: johnanddeandotfic on December 15th, 2007 05:58 pm (UTC)
people who resonate more for Dean (not "like" him more, but are more moved by him) tend to have a lower opinion of John as a father.

Heh. I'm going to throw off your theory, because I'm the opposite. Dean's my emotional touchstone for the series and I know what his father cost him, it's tragic. But I think of Sam as being the one who lost more in the father department, that he was the third wheel and I think that's sad. That Dean and John had a connection Sam and John didn't. (And maybe that's exactly why John could hurt Dean so much more, because of the stronger bond).